5 Things I Learned While Volunteering at my Local Organic Farm

On a hot, humid, blue-sky Thursday afternoon, we made our way to
Sherborn, a small town outside Boston, MA. We were looking forward to volunteering at Silverwood Organic Farm, a historic local farmland. My partner in this adventure was my 10-year-old “little sister” who I mentor through Big Brother Big Sister. We were ready to experience an afternoon in the life of an organic farmer and take some organic lessons home with us.IMG_20150813_161145

For over 300 years, the 100 acres of Silverwood land has provided organic, healthy nourishment for the local community. The farm produces a variety of delicious organic produce including customer favorites of cherry tomatoes, snap peas, hot peppers, and herbs. The farm reaches customers through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program and farm stands, as well as, wholesale to select retailers and restaurants.

While several of my local farm stands may use organic practices, Silverwood was one of the only farms near me who made the effort to certify through a USDA National Organic Program. Silverwood uses Baystate Organic Certifiers to confirm their produce, soil and practices are organic. To me, it is worth skipping over the other self-identifying organic farms in order find one that is certified.

During the manual labor and sweat, here were a few things my little sister and I learned:

  1. It is hard work: In organic farming, there are no “short cuts.” The focus is on long-term growth and sustainability of the environment and farm eco-system. Instead of spraying weeds like conventional farming, Silverwood’s hardworking team rolls up their sleeves and manually weeds rows and rows (and rows…) of produce. Of course, it was fun to help for an afternoon, but it is truly strenuous work that ensures the farm’s livelihood. Remember: when you pay a higher price for organic items, you are supporting the extra efforts of organic farmers.
  2. Organic doesn’t have to be a luxury: The number of licensed farmers markets that accept SNAP EBT benefits (the federal Food Stamp Program) is increasing nationwide! Compared to 2008, there are 620% more farms that accept EBT today. Silverwood is proud to offer customers of all financial situations access to fresh, organic produce.
  3. Timing is everything: It can be difficult for an organic farmer to have his/her supply perfectly meet the community’s demands. Seasonality is key! That’s why this August in New England, it is the best time to buy tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and certain types of lettuce that are in surplus of supply. The more you can plan your meals by seasonality, the better off the farmer and thus, our environment will be. As an added plus, Silverwood donates their leftovers or “seconds” to local food pantries reducing the amount of food waste they create.
  4. Fertilizer matters: If you read my last post on soil, you know that organic farms rely on the health of their soil. That’s why Silverwood uses minimally-processed fertilizer by collecting organic-fed chicken manure for their soil. Speaking of fertilizer…
  5. Organic really does taste better: I tasted the best cucumber of my life! Abel, Silverwood’s Farm Manager, explained that organic practices allow the farm to boost ecological diversity and work with the environment (bugs and all) in order to produce delicious tasting, healthy products for the local community without overwhelming the natural system.

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How was the experience from a 10-year-old’s perspective, you ask?

“What I like about this place is that they grow all of their own foods naturally, and they don’t use chemicals which would harm the animals and the roots of the plant.”

I encourage you to volunteer with your local organic farm for the day and be sure to bring a friend, especially anyone as insightful as my little sister.

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